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On Walkabout At: Hwanseon Cave, South Korea – Part 1

Building off my recent posting on the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, I figured I would go ahead post about another impressive cave I have explored, this one in South Korea.  The little known Hwanseon Cave is the largest cave yet discovered in South Korea and one of the largest in all of Asia.  The cave is located deep within the northeast mountains of Gangwon Province of South Korea:

Hwanseon Cave so far is not a major tourist attraction in Korea, but it is becoming increasingly popular as the local Korean government continues to develop the area to attract more tourists.  The cave is located deep in a really spectacular valley:


The day my wife visited the valley a heavy down pour was falling which was obscuring our view of the valley.  However, occasionally the clouds would part just long enough for us to get a glimpse of the spectacular scenery surrounding us:


The entrance to the cave is shaped like a large bat and due to the heavy rain, the line was not very long to get into the park:


The cave itself is not located anywhere near the entrance to the park.  We were told that to reach the cave a bit of a walk was needed.  Little did we know how long of a walk this would turn out to be.  Of course along the way to the cave, the route is lined with the usual shops with older women known in Korea by the term “ajumma” were selling various drinks and snacks:


There was also plenty of shops selling some pretty impressive wood carvings as well:


Of course no mountain experience in Korea would be complete without small restaurants selling plenty of the Korean liquor of choice soju.  My wife and I would actually partake in this restaurant after we got back from what turned out to be quite a walk.  The noodles served here was actually quite good:


This large Korean totem pole seemed to demarcate where the shops ended and the path to the cave begins:


Along the way to Hwanseon Cave there is a path that branches off to another cave in the valley that actually uses a small train to access the cave with:


The Hwanseon Cave does not have a train and thus visitors are required to walk to the entrance of the cave.  The walk was pleasant enough because the scenery around the valley, even though it was raining, was quite spectacular:


The trail followed along rapidly flowing creek of crystal clear water:


That was lined with thickly forested hillsides:


There was also some interesting historical attractions along the trail as well such as this old Korean mill:


Eventually the trail began to ascend up the side of the valley exposing this prominent rocky crag:


The trail began to become extremely steep as it continued to ascend up the mountain.  While ascending up the mountain the trail crossed over what is known as the Hermit’s Bridge:


The name for this bridge would become apparent later on when we got to the cave.  The bridge crossed over one of the tributaries of the creek that flows through the valley’s floor:


Eventually the trail had to ascend up a number of staircases in order climb up the side of the steep mountain side:


As I ascended up the stairs I would normally be rewarded with a view over the valley but unfortunately due to the heavy rain I could not see a thing.  Here is how the view across the valley would normally look:

Once my wife and I climbed our final staircase the trail began to follow parrallel to the tributary stream:


Soon the entrance to the cave came into view:


Once we reached the cave’s entrance we noticed that the creek was not originating from the top of valley, but instead from inside of Hwanseon Cave:


From the park’s entrance it took about an hour just to reach the entrance of the cave and boy were we glad to reach the entrance not because of the length of the trail but just because we wanted to finally get out of the rain for awhile.

We may have been surprised by the length of the walk just to reach the cave’s entrance, but we would find out that further surprises would a wait us inside the cave as well.

Next Posting: Hwanseon Cave – Part 2

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